In the next few days, Audrey Jones slipped away from reality. She withdrew inside herself to a world engulfed in sorrow. Since James had no family, she organized a funeral - a chance for herself and his many friends to say goodbye. She found herself in charge of squaring away his personal things, most of which she kept because she couldn't bear to part with any piece of him.
She was going through his dresser drawers one day when she saw an irregularly square lump inside a sock. She removed the lump to find that it was a little velvety box containing a diamond and sapphire ring that fit like a nesting doll with the promise ring he had given her years before. The realization that he was probably going to ask her to marry him sometime before she left for college struck her like a bowling ball to the stomach, and she fell to her knees. She had no tears left inside her, but she sobbed quietly in the floor beside his bed for hours.
As the torturously long days became weeks and months, Audrey could think of nothing but James Fischer. She remembered their first date, their first kiss, the first time he told her he loved her; and she remembered every single time they had done those things since then. She opened her mind to vivid images of his smiling face the day she told him she would never love another. She remembered the way he had fought back tears when he saw how sad she was at her grandpa's funeral. And in the midst of all her memories, she started to find all new images.
She imagined James on one knee proposing to her in the most cliched and romantic way possible. She saw herself walking down the aisle carrying a bouquet of purple irises and orange day-lilies (both of their favorite colors). She saw the two of them honeymooning in Europe and living in a crappy house that they could barely pay for. And - at some point - she completely lost track of the difference between memory, imagination, and reality. It all blurred together in her mind. She wore the diamond and sapphire ring and proudly called herself Mrs. Fischer. No one dared ask her about her husband. They all knew the truth.
She never made it to college. She couldn't even graduate high school because she had missed too many days when she was in the hospital with James. She didn't care though. She didn't even notice. She had forgotten all about school right along with all the budding dreams she had before the accident. She knew nothing else but life as the wife of James Fischer - only without James Fischer.
One day her mother went to sweep the leaves away from James' grave - she had taken over this task when Audrey forgot that he was dead - and she found her daughter lying lifeless amidst the leaves clutching a note that said simply, "There's something missing."